PHE Report into Unequal Suffering of BAME Community During Covid-19 Delayed
Throughout the Coronavirus pandemic, it has become increasingly clear that the UK’s BAME community has suffered and continues to suffer disproportionately.
For campaigners, activists, charities and organisations dedicated to supporting and championing the rights of BAME people, the disproportionate number of deaths throughout the pandemic unfortunately does not come as a surprise.
In fact, on 19th March – just prior to the UK’s lockdown – Fatima Iftikhar took to Twitter to express her concerns and well-founded fears regarding the real potential for Covid-19 to deepen racial inequalities in the UK.
Fatima outlined everything from how BAME communities are overrepresented amongst low-income groups – with particularly younger people more likely to be in precarious work – to the overrepresentation of those subjected to No Recourse to Public Funds, recognising that the BAME community would be entitled to far less financial support.
She also examined how particularly Black families have lower rates of home ownership and are more likely to live in overcrowded homes, significantly increasing the risk of infection and inability to self-isolate.
Now, two months into the UK’s lockdown, Fatima’s predictions have proved true. As tributes to key workers permeated social media and national newspapers, one thing became strikingly clear: those losing their lives to Covid-19 were overwhelmingly of a BAME background.
Existing racial inequalities have undeniably played a critical role in this reality, with the government receiving mounting pressure to address this unavoidable, ever-pressing issue.
Since the announcement that PHE (Public Health England) would be commissioned to conduct a thorough review into why BAME people are being disproportionately affected by the Coronavirus, the public have awaited its publication – initially due to surface at the end of May.
To deny this outrage – and by attempting to orchestrate the public’s response to align with a time more convenient for the government – is a form of oppression within itself
However, with the arrival of June, the report is still yet to be seen. Last night (Monday 1st June), the Department of Health and Social Care denied allegations that the report’s delay comes as a result of concerns regarding civil unrest linked to the death of George Floyd – an African American man who died after Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee against his neck, despite George’s pleas that he could not breathe.
The horrifying, needless death of George Floyd has sparked protests and riots across America, as vast swathes of the population once again rightly demand an end to police brutality against Black people and, more broadly, systemic racism as a whole.
Despite the UK government denying that the delayed publication of PHE’s report is due to the Black Lives Matter movement currently storming America, an unnamed government source is believed to have informed Sky News that the release had been pushed back because of ‘worries’ around ‘current global events’.
It is a tactical, virtueless move to avoid and suppress justified outrage
To withhold such crucial findings from members of the very community which are now demanding justice as a result of their systemic oppression is both deeply unethical and a grim irony. This reluctance to publish the report suggests that the PHE’s findings do indeed point to existing racial inequalities in the UK as playing a damning role in the strikingly higher mortality risk.
The government cannot hide from this. Instead, it ought to take accountability for contributing to such racial inequality – stretching far beyond the past decade – and dedicate itself to reshaping society.
This seems unlikely, however, given both the government’s history in tackling racial inequality and its current delay in publishing the report. It is a tactical, virtueless move to avoid and suppress justified outrage. To deny this outrage – and by attempting to orchestrate the public’s response to align with a time more convenient for the government – is a form of oppression within itself.
On the contrary, there is no better time to address the racial inequality which lies at the heart of the BAME community’s overwhelming suffering. In delaying the report, the government is wilfully prolonging this inequality.